Often times, when facing big issues that threaten our survival on the planet, it can seem that there’s not much average people can do to help. For example, in our series on global governance, we’ve talked about the need for cooperation among states, and that might not feel super actionable to the reader.
The destruction of the rainforests may seem like another issue along those lines. And while government intervention will need to be part of the solution long-term, there are steps that everyone can take in the meantime to put a small dent in the pressure facing the rainforests.
Reduce your Paper and Wood Consumption
Some of the most endangered forests on the planet are being cut down to make wood and paper products. We’ve already pointed out 31 different ways to reduce paper usage, which will help reduce the demand for paper and take some of that pressure off. Wood products can also be selectively chosen by determining the source of the wood and ensuring it’s not coming from a vulnerable forest. If you are building a house or adding on to your home, utilize wood efficient building techniques and avoid old growth wood products. Learn about alternatives such as reclaimed or recycled lumber, composite lumber, and independently certified wood.
Fund Ecotourism, Rainforest Communities, and Conservation Efforts
There are large numbers of different avenues to spend dollars to help the rainforest. Giving the poor people in countries where rainforests are in danger alternative ways to make a living is important, as they typically take up destructive jobs in order to put food on the table. Supporting ecotourism is a great way to support communities because it not only provides an alternative way to make money for people in these areas but it encourages the people who live in these areas to protect the source of their livelihood. Funding efforts to buy up land for conservation purposes is also a great investment as this protects the land and creates jobs as well when done properly and doesn’t ignore the realities of life in these areas. The Rainforest Action Network for example has a program called “Protect-An-Acre”. This program provides funding to help forest peoples gain legal recognition of their territories, develop locally-based alternative economic initiatives, and resist destructive practices such as logging and fossil fuel development.
Reduce your Beef Consumption
When it comes to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and rainforests in Central America, much of these countries’ rainforests have been cleared to raise cattle whose meat is exported to the USA and abroad. This beef is typically found in fast food hamburgers or processed beef products. Burger King, for example is not only owned by a Brazilian firm but uses primarily Brazilian beef products. The United States imports over 150 million pounds of beef from Brazil annually. Reducing your consumption of beef will reduce demand for it, cutting back on pressure to clear more forests for cattle. Furthermore, if you are going to eat beef, make sure you can tell that it is responsibly sourced and not imported from a rainforest country.
Support Activism Networks and Protection Agencies
There are many different agencies out there committed to protecting the rainforests that do great work, the aforementioned Rainforest Action Network is only one example. Some are committed to only the protection of rainforest; others, only to environmental issues; while others are more generalized, such as Avaaz. Whoever, you lend your support to, do your research to make sure they are a worthy cause and are effective in what they do.
Don’t Support Unethical Businesses
This is a good rule to follow generally. It applies to the rainforests because if companies (such as the aforementioned Burger King) are responsible for rainforest destruction (or other bad things!), then you should not support them by using their services or buying their products, if at all possible. Boise, for example, sells wood products from the world’s most endangered forests, including the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and Southeast Asia and the temperate rainforests of Chile. Citigroup would be another example – many people do not realize that Citigroup is involved in many world’s most destructive projects, such as the replacement of orangutan habitat with palm plantations in Indonesia.
Public protests are in fact, effective, as long as they are targeted, coherent, and rally against a cause that is actionable. Protests such as Occupy Wall Street are not typically effective because they are not specific or targeted enough and can be hijacked by almost anyone to mean almost anything. However, coherent protesting is effective. You can help by supporting grassroots movements in your area or by starting your own grassroots movement. In 1999, Home Depot, the single largest retailer of lumber in the world, agreed to phase out its sales of old growth wood. This victory was a direct result of the hard work of grassroots activists, who staged more than six hundred demonstrations at Home Depot stores across the U. S. and Canada.